Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has commuted the sentences of 21 low-level offenders to time served in accord with a measure approved by voters in 2016 that reclassified some nonviolent drug and property crimes, the Tulsa World reports. State Question 780 classified drug possession and low-level property offenses as misdemeanors instead of felonies. Those who received commutations were sentenced before the new criminal justice laws taking effect. The offenders were incarcerated for 10 years or more for crimes that now carry either no prison term or a significantly shorter sentences.
Fallin said the 21 offenders were sentenced collectively to 349 years. Her action shaved 306 years off of that prison time. Family members, friends and loved ones cheered as Fallin signed each of the 21 commutations. “As we prepare for the Christmas holiday season, let’s not forget there is a God of second chances,” the governor said at a news conference. She told family members that they will play a huge role in determining the success of the offenders as they leave prison. For years, Oklahoma has led the nation in the number of people it incarcerates. The state prison system is overcrowded. The commutation effort was spearheaded by Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform with the help of University of Tulsa College of Law students, the Tulsa County Public Defenders Office and others. “The more the state focuses on rehabilitation and less on retribution, I think the better off we will be in Oklahoma,” said Tulsa County Chief Public Defender Corbin Brewster.